How can or should I use social media sites if I don’t have friends in real life?

Social Phobic September 24, 2011
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This might seem a strange question — and it’s quite lengthy, forgive and bear with me — but IMHO it’s something that probably needs asking (and not only because I’m personally interested to know). Everything you always wanted to know about Social Network sites, but were too introverted to ask. :)

I tend to resist using sites like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc., because I’ve heard lots about the blather and drama that goes on there — I think there’s probably no practical use for the “little guy” because most of their users are either teenagers, celebrities, or companies (especially those that deal specifically with social media “branding” or “Web 2.0 marketing” or whatever the terms might be). Much less for chronically bashful folks like me.

But I also feel as though there’s no point in my using them because they’re mostly for “friending” people you know “IRL” (in real life), of which I, sadly, have none. :(

Now I promise I’m not a troll, a stalker, or a 45-year-old WoW fanatic living in mom’s basement scouting out anime pr_n (perhaps the other danger of these sites — on the Internet, nobody knows you’re wearing a dog collar!).

I’m actually a HS grad just recently released from the madding crowd, a girl who was so unpopular and so much of an outcast that even the so-called outcasts thought I was odd. (Think if Ally Sheedy’s character in Breakfast Club and J.D. Salinger had a love child.) I’m not working, and the only people I have contact with are my family members, all 60+ who still think a mouse is something you give a cookie to in a children’s storybook. ;-)

Still, I feel as though I’m maybe missing out on something. I want to see about joining one of these sites, but I have no idea of how to use them if I don’t know anyone on the outside who would. I have a lot of interests and talents — the most “gifted” of which is writing, and a great interest in books and reading — a clever, tongue-in-cheek sense of humor, and plenty of opinions on things going on in the world. But sadly, I have no one to share them with, and I’ve heard social media sites like Facebook (notice I said “like” Facebook, not that I do, but in other words, probably not FB per se), are the 21st-century way to get noticed and air your breadth of gifts to the world (or even just chat idly in “small talk,” a LOT of which apparently fills the dialogues on these sites).

I’m an aspiring author (not of “fan fiction,” though), and more and more I’ve read about all this author platform junk that people need to do with social media. But I am very much naturally geared towards Salinger’s brand of “social networking.” I also know the “contacts” made online aren’t going to be friends in real life. But how can or should I use these sites to get involved with things and meet new people, even if only online, if I don’t have anyone I know personally face-to-face, and am not yet able (18, but not yet driver’s licensed) to go out and meet any on my own? I’m limited in technical and business knowledge, and can’t afford a domain name or anything like that; also, how can I also jump on this very complicated and dizzying ride called the S.E.O. bandwagon? If you want to know how limited I am in knowledge about that — weren’t they an ’80s rock band or something, kinda like Journey or Styx? :)

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  1. (not so) Social Phobic
    November 4, 2011 at 5:57 am

    I came back a LONG while after my original question was posted and am really very surprised at the amount and quality of replies! :)

    @b9fb5589c6b1fc64d32c31bc22026c97:disqus "I must applaud the original poster for the insight he captured in  his
    question with his recent high school grad age that some, if not most,
    people of my age (late 40s) still can not understand."

    ...you mean SHE captured. :) I guess I passed the Naipaul test!

    @Jeff_Fabish:disqus Don't fret about having the "social skills of a fencepost." I've known some fenceposts that were remarkable and witty conversationalists the likes of which would render George Will and Oscar Wilde patently speechless. :) I had a look (= "lurk") at Twitter and despite its name (on which the users, one might think, are..."twits"), there are some pretty smart people on there. Novelists, journalists, even the Dalai Lama. Of course, there's also Beeb the Dweeb and Snookie, but that's neither here nor there. :)

    Ironically, since the weather's gotten colder I've started going out more. Haven't gotten a social network account yet (the "big 3" FB, Twitter, G+), but have found some great forums where people share my interests. Oh, and MUO's got a lot of smart people on the intarwebz too! :D

  2. Nomad63
    October 1, 2011 at 4:53 am

    I must applaud the original poster for the insight he captured in  his question with his recent high school grad age that some, if not most, people of my age (late 40s) still can not understand.

    What is so great about having facebook friends by tons ? What is good about reading what other people did or doing, all day long, instead of going out, living, even alone and having your own experiences and memories. Yes, they will not be as glamorous as those of some people you befriended on FB or following their tweets and what-not, but again, do you really want to live your life by proxies ? Reminds me the sad, sci-fi'ey movie with Bruce Willis in it, released in the last couple of years. Name of the movie eludes my feeble memory right now, but most of you know the piece I am sure.

    What are we going to do when social networking frenzy comes to an end ? Send our avatars to the cyber space and interact with other people's avatars, instead of going out to the corner Starbucks (bleeeaah coffee by the way but they are the de-facto meeting points at the present time) and talk to the guy/gal on the next table about how slow the internet access at those places have become.  Now, that is an interaction I can understand. Adding the same person on your facebook friends list or google+ circles, is a concept, totally lost on me.

    Look at my once upon a time big boss, Rupert Murdoch (I worked under News Corp umbrella for a while) took a bath to the tune of half a billion dollars with his myspace foray. Every social media outlet is re-evaluating their IPO plans or totally pulling out of it. Don't you think these are the signs of times ? Don't you think, the end game run has started ? Everybody had their fun, played mafia wars, mobsters, farmville etc. and bored already. Get a clue. Better, GET A LIFE !!!

  3. minki
    October 1, 2011 at 3:41 am

    i LIKE YA honey!

  4. Anonymous
    September 26, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    virtual can not replace  real, but something is better than nothing !

    • Nomad63
      October 1, 2011 at 4:40 am

      I beg to differ... social networking is definitely NOT, repeat *!NOT!* something. It is just an illusion. If you prefer having an illusion to remote possibility of having something real, you need to have your priorities re-examined, in my never so humble opinion.

      • Jay
        October 1, 2011 at 4:52 am

        I know a friend who went to a movie with his fb friend, so if you are real, you will turn virtual to real.
        We all have personal Opinions and experiences.
        Thanks for sharing yours.

        • Nomad63
          October 1, 2011 at 4:57 am

          So, he/she used facebook as a dati ng service. I can relate to that, but again, plentyoffish, okcupid and even the cesspool known as craigslist personals, work wonders on that end. For facebook, it is just a coincidence that your friend and the date being in the same locality. I am sure, if your friend is so good at turning virtual friends to real life ones, he would make miracles on any dating site.

  5. websofy Developers
    September 26, 2011 at 4:57 am

    try to get along with  the others...don't hesitate. Make friends, visit your relatives, go here and there, live your life to the fullest. you can read book named how to win 
    friends and influence people (Written by Dale Carnegie) it is really helpul for introvert and shy persons. 

  6. Social Phobic
    September 26, 2011 at 2:51 am

    @Jeff_Fabish:disqus  @11ec7624427d5608ca82b850e42ceec2:disqus Thanks SO much for your replies! (@1f2c4f6669ed9e1ef631f0971ee17324:disqus I would if I could, but as the old saying goes, "it's complicated.") And @Jeff:disqus I take that recommendation as quite a compliment! :)

    I have no problem writing or getting my point across (obviously); it's the dialogue part that I have trouble with -- but then again, I've already initiated one here, so maybe it's not that hard at all, and people make it seem as though it is. :) It seems as though a new one of these social sites pops up every five minutes, like in one of those Whack The Mole games, and it becomes difficult to keep up with "the next big thing" that people are looking to adopt. It becomes a collector's habit, like people do on FB with FarmVille points and used to with Beanie Babies, or Angelina Jolie does with kids from foreign countries. ;)

    Plus, being an introvert I am very guarding of my privacy, and with this TMI culture that we live in, not sharing what brand of underwear you prefer or whether or not you're wearing it at the time (or any, for that matter!), for some people, that might actually seem rude. I think anyone with common sense would find it rather intrusive. (The same thing goes for this behavioral advertising stuff.) As an example, I once read an article (maybe it was here?) about a girl who was so proud her parents gave her a credit card that she posted a PICTURE of it -- numbers and all -- on her FB page! 8-

    I guess what I'm looking for is the "smart" realm of the "Interwebz," even if it's absurdist or irreverent or just plain random at times (like the YouTube "poop" videos that crop up from time to time -- and I'll admit, I am an occasional lurker on Urban Dictionary and even Encyclopedia Dramatica). I've certainly found evidence to, ahem, "refudiate" the claim that a search for intelligent life on Earth gives a big 404, good buddy, not just at MUO :) but on places like Salon, HuffPost, NewsVine (NBC's arc of the social-media world AFAIK), and even some forums on which I occasionally contribute. Part of me is worried that I'm too smart, and another part says maybe I'm not smart enough. I guess it boils down to the Goldilocks equation of finding a "just right" balance between "being yourself" while not baring your soul (or your SSN!) for all the world to see, between intelligence and elitism, between total stupidity and good clean fun.

    Again, thanks for the replies. The only thing is that I wish someone would write a how-to guide for social sites in general for regular folks too intimidated, too newb-ish, or too shy to get into the game. Maybe if I get the hang of it and start writing here that'll be my first downloadable guide! :D

    • Jeff Fabish
      September 26, 2011 at 3:11 pm

      If you want to join the "smart interwebz realms", join the websites that fit your interest. For example, I am a regular visitor to National Geographic, BBC, TopDocumentaryFilms, DocumentaryHeaven and TheThinkingAtheist. Also gather a list of inspirational people and listen to their material. For me it's George Carlin (#1!), Bill Maher, Bill Hicks, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Milton Friedman, etc. This alone can occupy a lot of time, just on YouTube! While I like to "cuddle up" next to like-minded figures, I also like to listen to other points of view (Bill O'reilly, Ann Coulter, etc.) to get a feel for their reactions and counter arguments.

      As for the response to "Get a life", I ask how being social on the internet is not having a life? I like conversations online more, there is less judgement. The only downside to "the internet life", is I have the social skills of a fencepost.

      Don't be so hard on yourself for being socially awkward, it's not your fault (: As with anything else, it has it's advantages and disadvantages.

  7. Sniper_King1
    September 25, 2011 at 10:46 pm

    You need to get off the computer get out of your room, go outside of your house meet people, play with them, get yourself a life. 

  8. Mulder
    September 25, 2011 at 10:44 pm

    Like most introverts, just because you're shy and reserved doesn't mean there's nothing going on in your head. It just means you prefer the company of yourself, because they don't understand what it's like to be an introvert.

    You need an outlet for your creative energy, whether it's reading, writing, painting photography, etc. Whatever negative things the crowd is saying about you, ignore them and put it aside. They aren't you: they don't think like you do, they don't act like you do, and they don't understand what it's like to be in your situation. They never will, so ignore them. You may want to read this article: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2003/03/caring-for-your-introvert/2696/

    As for using social networks, I know lots of people using them, but I don't use any of them. I find it exhausting to think about people spending their waking hours sending tweets and other messages to their "friends" on these sites, while their productivity at work goes straight down and their attention span becomes that of a gnat.

    Twitter does have a good use in helping get breaking news announcements out quickly, and a variety of high profile bloggers use it for that; they don't tweet back and forth about where they are, what they had to eat, or if they find somebody to be obnoxious. They use it to get the word out about something important, and that's it. If you're a "Liberal" or "Progressive" Democrat, a good example is Glenn Greenwald of salon.com; he's an excellent writer and he hammers away on his point, showing how corrupt our government has become and the consequences of their actions. You should read his column there, if nothing else.

    As for SEO, that's a bunch of crap. Google changes the algorithm of their search engine hundreds of times each year to make it better, and stop people from gaming the results with all sorts of SEO hocus-pocus. Good SEO is simple: provide good content consistently, and the results will follow. It takes time, but that's how all really good sites got to be at the top of the search results for their subject.

    Domain names are very inexpensive; the trick is finding one that's good and hasn't already been taken. You can get one for around $8 per year through GoDaddy.com (the actual price depnds on which top-level domain you use); the hosting is the main expense, but you can get that for less than $100 per year, depending on whom you choose.

    If you want a free blog, you can get that at http://WordPress.com/; if you want to use WordPress as your blogging platform (it's free) and have it on your own domain and host, you can download it here: http://WordPress.org/

  9. Jeffery Fabish
    September 25, 2011 at 8:52 am

    Like you, I don't have all that many friends "IRL" because I'm an introvert. However, social networks still come in handy, without them this response wouldn't have been possible (I'm posting via Facebook). I use it to keep up with the news (Anderson Cooper, Keith Olbermann, etc.), my documentary websites which post when they upload a new documentary and occasionally a few high school friends. Most websites offer a way of keeping up-to-date with new material via a social network, which can be advantageous to you.

    You should apply to be a writer at MakeUseOf! You've got a lot of energy waiting to be unleashed, I can tell. Implement your talent and eventually (especially in writing) people will come around. There are plenty of websites looking for talented bloggers, find one that fits your interest and write away.

    Drama occurs anywhere and everywhere. It happens on social networks, in real life, on MakeUseOf, you can't avoid it.

    Feel free to add me!

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